Springtime sunset on the farm.
I've been promising an allergy update....but this one hasn't been so easy to write.
The fact of the matter is that I have an incredible amount of power when it comes to my allergies. I can faithfully take my allergy drops. I can keep the house closed up. I can follow my allergy diet carefully. I can pack along my own food for various events. I can say no to potentially difficult social events and meals out. I can make sure that I don't come into contact with certain allergens. I can judiciously use OTC meds to control any lingering symptoms. I can follow through with periodic appointments with my allergist. I can adjust my lifestyle to get the type of exercise and rest I need.
I can do a lot...and every little bit helps. In many, many ways I'm better off now than I was back in the summer of 2010, just prior to my official allergy diagnosis. I am proud of the progress that I've made, and am especially pleased with how well I've done over the last year.
But at the end of the day, I must recognize that I'm dealing with a chronic illness, and that no matter what I do there will always be a few things which are beyond my control.
I can't control pollen and mold counts.
I can't control the amount of stress that life throws my way.
I can't control the way people around me feel about or behave towards my situation.
Let's take a moment to look at each one of those.
- Twice/year I have to deal with a peak allergy season. Spring and fall are, for me, the absolute worst....which is really sad because my natural inclination is to be outside as much as possible enjoying the weather and the beauty of nature. During peak allergy seasons I'm taking into my body with every single breath things that make me sick. At best I'm tired and will have to deal with cravings for the foods I shouldn't eat. At worst I wind up as I am now...sick for weeks, praying for a frost - natural or otherwise - as I struggle to breathe, sleep, function, maintain a good mood, fight food cravings...you get the idea. For roughly 4-6 weeks twice a year I suffer. It is what it is. The very good news is that my allergy drops generally do a fantastic job of protecting me from the worst of it. This is the first year since I started them that I've had to deal with full blown hay fever...and I admit I'm more than just a bit disappointed to be dealing with this again. (The theory is that my immune system is shot right now because of the shingles, thus explaining why the drops weren't enough to protect me this year.) To make matters worse, there is a lot of convincing evidence that pollen counts are getting worse every year. At what point will even the best of medical care fail to be enough? I'm worried.
- Like it or not, stress plays a powerful influence on health. True enough, I do a lot better with handling stress than I used to. My toolbox is much, much better than it was when I was 17, and I now know that I can control my anxiety and depression problems largely by doing everything I can to keep my allergies under control. I'm never, though, going to be someone who can just let things roll off of me. Life happens, and I'm proud of how I can now generally rise to the occasion...but there is always a cost. Case in point, the shingles that trashed my immune system are generally triggered by stress in someone my age. Much as I'd love to wave a magic wand and make everything all right all of the time...or at least make myself a gazillion times better at coping...that's just not the way it works, nor is it who I am. I do the best I can, but.
- There are always going to be people who just don't get it...people who refuse to support me or believe me...people who insist on making a big deal out of it when I'd rather be quietly left alone...people who want to argue....people who want to pity....people who get angry about the information I present to them when they ask...people who want to fix it for me by suggesting a million things that just don't work, and then who expect me to comfort them. I think many of you would be horrified if I wrote out a list of the types of reactions my allergies have generated in others. I know I have several truly good friends who are angry, horrified on my behalf about the things that have been said and done to me since I got the diagnosis. One of these days, maybe I'll figure out how to handle all of the craziness. For now it's generally best to withdraw or to avoid. I have to protect myself, after all.
If all of this sounds sad, it's because I am. It's difficult when we run up against our limitations and realize that no matter what we do we can't fully overcome them. The last three months have been particularly trying as I've faced illness after illness. It's forced me to recognize that what I want and what my body needs are often two different things.
So why do I write all of this?
Well, it's not because I want your pity. Absolutely not. Nor do I want to set myself up as a martyr or a victim, and believe it or not I don't want this to be the first thing you know about me.
But I do want to be honest, and this is my world right now.
And, I'm hoping that by being honest I'll open some hearts and minds.